Building Permit Fee's

Building permits have fees associated with them. Today we’re going to talk about those fees and roughly what to expect to pay for each associated fee.

In terms of developing a budget for your project we think a number that’s good to put in for plan check and inspection fees and then there’s a building permit fee, these are the basic fees that get triggered when you get an approved set of plans for construction about 3% for both of those is good. So if you’ve got a $100,000 project around $3,000 would probably be reasonable. Now different areas have different prices but it’s easy to figure out. If we were going to add let’s say 500 square feet to a home, we could use a budget number plus or minus maybe 15%, but a budget number would be about $200 a square foot for the project. This would possibly include all costs. Some areas are higher than that but let’s say $200 a square foot at 500 square feet that would be a $100,000 project. We would suggest setting aside about $3,000 for plan check and inspection fees and like we said that’s broken in two. So you pay the plan check fee in order to get the plans reviewed and approved and once those are approved they’re ready to issue. You actually notify your contractor at this point. They are the ones that actually pick up the project from the building department, they pull the permit is what they call it. So they get an actual approved stamped, signed set of drawings that go to the jobsite. They’re supposed to stay on the jobsite and they have what we call a jobsite card. It’s usually in yellow, orange, green or some bright color so you don’t lose it and it has sections for every piece of the project for the inspector to sign off. Because inspectors go to hundreds of jobs they might not come back to your project until the framing has been started. So there’s a number of specific sections within the construction documents that the inspector is going to want to look at. The first thing they will do when they come to the jobsite is to see that inspection card and see what’s been signed off by the city and what the inspector has to look at. The inspector will use that card to approve the nailing, sheer panels, foundation, framing, mechanical, and electrical. There’s a whole list and those fees like we said about 3% covers the plan check fee and the infield permit fee. You have the pleasure of paying the inspector to come look at your job to make sure you’re doing it right which is reasonable. Their primarily doing that for life safety purposes.

So that’s one aspect of permit fees. We’ll give you a textbook answer on the engineering cost for a project. Soft cost for residential work runs anywhere from about 12%-18% of the hard cost.
So if you had a construction budget of say $100,000, your general soft cost, of all your engineers and things like that, could run anywhere from $15,000-$18,000 is a good number. If your project gets bigger than obviously everything is scaled up in those numbers. What we call soft cost are generally the plan check permit fee, architecture, engineering, structural engineering, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing development of all the documents for your particular project. You can budget those numbers in and we can help you with those budgets and develop an early concept which will very quickly help you dial in where your costs are and where the project’s going to go. From that we can help you set a construction schedule. We are involved with all of that and we are also involved with some of the entitlement on residential properties.
Generally that’s a time and material basis. We also give our clients the opportunity if they actually want to spend the windshield time and save some money on their project, we’ll be happy to guide them through the process.

We just want to warn you though every time a set of drawings goes in the first time it comes back it’s going to have redlines all over it. As the client if you’re not aware of that you’ll look at the drawings and think “oh they must have gotten an F on this.” In reality most of the stuff just generally needs to be responded to. We make the changes or add the comments the plan checker wants then resubmit the plans, get a permit, then get ready for construction. The codes are so extensive in California these days that most residential contractors do not do their work anymore. We would say 15 years ago you would probably see maybe half of them doing their own drawings, there’s a few that do them but not as much anymore. It’s gotten pretty extensive with the title 24, green building compliance requirements, and in fact most buildings now are recommending when you go out to do a project or when you talk to the planning department or building department they’ll suggest you get an architect to get the project going.

We provide professional services as part of the architectural process. Even if you sign a contract for all phases of work, you’re only responsible during that contract for the work that’s actually done. So you actually have an exit path if you stop the project and move in a different direction. That’s just something to keep in mind. Our fee structure is set up so that you pay as you go and we’ll help you develop budgets for the project. Hopefully this has answered some of the overall cost factors. Obviously one of the bigger factors is not so much what it costs for soft cost but what the hard general contractor fees are. We help you get multiple pricing on that. One thing that comes to mind is that many homeowners would like to do their own finishes which reduces the cost for construction of that space. You may want to have a finished shell as we call it which is weather tight, it has the walls, insulation, drywall, rough electrical, and rough plumbing. The only thing it doesn’t have is the floor finishes, cabinets, tile, and granite. Those things can be subbed out separately and generally because you take out the uncertainty factor in terms of cost and material finishes you allow a contractor to get in and get the main structure done, get that permitted and get out. Then if you want you can offer them an opportunity to subcontract that out or you can do those finishes yourself. So there’s an opportunity for a little sweat equity there and we’ve done that both ways with a number of clients. Generally, if they’ve had some experience and know how to use a skill saw or chop saw or other power tools, a lot of times they’ll choose to do some of the finishes themselves. So hopefully that’s helpful! We’d be glad to talk to you in more detail about strategy, and how to accomplish what you want for your property. You can schedule a free consultation now!